Give Bears GM Phil Emery the benefit of the doubt for now
BY MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org April 28, 2012 10:12PM
Boise State defensive end Shea McClellin is a bit of a risky pick because he’s a tweener who seems better suited for a 3-4 defense. | Michael Conroy~AP
Updated: May 30, 2012 8:34AM
‘Has he been charged with anything?’’
It’s rarely a good sign when the first question for the general manager after announcing a draft pick is about a felony assault charge. But like everything else Phil Emery did in his first NFL draft as a GM, we’ll have to take his word for it that the Bears’ due diligence on Evan Rodriguez indicates the tight end from Temple is as coachable as he is versatile and that his transgressions were a byproduct of immaturity and not some self-destructive nature that doesn’t get measured at the scouting combine.
The Bears talked to coaches, former coaches, trainers and former trainers, and all of them vouched for Rodriguez. Even Emery doesn’t know for sure if the kid isn’t ‘‘the biggest con man’’ the Temple coaches ever met — the one thing Penn State coach Joe Paterno neglected to tell Bears scouts about Curtis Enis in 1998.
After taking Rodriguez in the fourth round, Nevada cornerback Isaiah Frey in the sixth round and TCU cornerback Greg McCoy in the seventh round Saturday, Emery was predictably satisfied with his first draft. Just as Jerry Angelo was in 2002 — when Marc Colombo headed a class that produced only one player who met expectations: Florida defensive end Alex Brown in the fourth round.
It’ll be interesting to see if Emery fared better in his first draft because he seemed to go outside the box on almost every pick:
† Shea McClellin is a tweener seemingly better suited for a 3-4 defense.
† Alshon Jeffery is coming off a subpar year and was ejected from his last college game for fighting.
† Brandon Hardin didn’t play last season because of shoulder surgery.
† Rodriguez has a felony assault charge and disorderly conduct arrest on his résumé.
† Frey was rated the 453rd-best prospect on the board by CBSSports.com.
† McCoy is an All-America kick returner on a team with the best kick returner in NFL history.
At first blush, it might seem like the Bears will be challenged to find the immediate help they were looking for. On the other hand, there’s the very real possibility that Emery knows what he’s doing.
As the director of college scouting for the Kansas City Chiefs the last two seasons, he has been more active in the trenches and arguably is more in tune with college scouting than most GMs. Rodriguez is a risk. But Emery was in better position to gauge that risk than probably any GM in the NFL.
‘‘I have been through Temple and seen Temple play probably more than any university I’ve gone to in the last two years,’’ Emery said. ‘‘I have a personal relationship with the athletic trainer there — we worked together at Tennessee. I spent a lot of time with him on Evan. I went there three times this fall. I’ve known the prior strength coach when I was a strength coach [at Navy].’’
Emery’s scouting antennae might never be better than they are right now, which leads me to suspend my cynicism and consider why things might work out instead of why they won’t. McClellin is in the hands of one of the best defensive line coaches in the business. Jeffery has a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback throwing to him. It’s no coincidence that the best second-round wide receivers in recent years have had the same advantage — Vincent Jackson, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, DeSean Jackson and Sidney Rice.
So on a dark, dark day for Chicago sports — the news of Derrick Rose’s injury was so stunning, it penetrated the usually impregnable war room — let’s at least give Emery the benefit of the doubt until he proves he doesn’t deserve it.